Lectionary: 2 Samuel 11:26 - 12:13
Last week I spoke about David’s adultery, conspiracy and murder, how he broke at least 4 of the 10 Commandments:
- covetting your neighbour’s wife
Today I’d like to continue with the lessons that we can learn from David.
Now remember, it wasn’t that David was starved for female companionship. By this time as a wealthy king, he has many women: Ahinoam of Jezreel, Abigail the widow of Nabal, Maacah daughter of a king from Geshur (east of Galilee), Haggith, Abital, Eglah — that’s six while he was living in Hebron — and then «David took more concubines and wives in Jerusalem, and more sons and daughters were born to him» (5:13). In addition he has Saul’s concubines in his harem (12:8). So, don’t think that was the issue here!
I didn’t mention this last week, but some commentators have blamed Bathsheba, saying «she came without any hesitation and offered no resistance to his desires.» hmmm… The person with the power here is David, not Bathsheba, and in chapter 12 of Samuel, we find that David is held solely responsible for the sin by God (12:9).
At the beginning of this morning’s Reading, we see that after Bathsheba’s time of mourning has passed, David sends for her and makes her his wife. This is nothing new for David – he’s added wives before, and so she is simply another. But, for many, what David did was an act of heroism: He has taken into his harem the poor, pregnant wife, widow of one of his fallen captains. It was not unusual for a king to take a widow to wife immediately after the death of her husband. It was viewed as charitable, since the king would provide for her provisions and protection.
«Look at the way he stands behind his men! If they are killed in battle, he will take care of their widows! What a great King!»
The Bible clearly points out that this displeased God!
Since Adam & Eve sinned,we have attempted to cover it us. We fall into guilt and estrangement from God and from our fellow man! We are embarrassed by it, and we try to put our fig leaves in place to cover it up. And when that fails, we hide!
Unlike Nixon, Clinton or even Martinelli, David seems to have gotten away with his shenanigans. His cover-up was very effective and culturally appropriate. No one is pointing the finger at him for what he had done. And it looks like he’s gotten away with it. A whole year has passed. The baby has already been born…
But during this time, David is suffering from the guilt! One of the Psalms written about how he felt during this period is Psalm 32:
… When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer.
But even though David knew what he had done was wrong, he still hadn’t dealt with it! David knew the stress and agony of living a double, false life.
Even in his deceit, David was still leading the worship of Yahweh. You can imagine the tension going on inside of him. He was the judge of Israel. So, during that time God just wrings him dry. Until he is finally ready to face the real issues in his heart.
And so we read that God sends Nathan to speak with David. We don’t know how long Nathan took to prepare this message, but his approach was nothing less than masterful! He confronts David with his actions, brings him to acknowledgement and repentance, and stayed alive in the process!
Remember, David is the judge of Israel, and he has, so far, gotten away with murder and adultery… No one knows… and so he thinks he’s being told a real story, to pass judgement, when really, he’s being hung out to dry by his own tongue.
«There were two men in one city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a great many flocks and herds. But the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb
A little ewe- remember – David was a shepherd, and had probably, at one stage, had his own little pet lamb. So he immediately identifies again with the poor man and this one little lamb.
I remember we had a pet lamb once, Mum & Dad named him LambChop… you can imagine my horror when I worked that one out!
and so, this poor man had bought and nourished this little ewe lamb; and it grew up together with him and his children. It would eat of his bread and drink of his cup and lie in his bosom, and was like a daughter to him.
it was dear to their hearts, something special, just like Cecil the lion…
and so the parrable goes that a traveler
just a passing fancy, like a look over the parapet at a naked woman, no love, no commitment, just someone going by… a little like the dentist that just wanted to hang a great head on his Wall to boast to his friends about… until his next great hunt…
came to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take from his own flock or his own herd, to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him; rather he took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.»
Then David’s anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan,
«As the Lord lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die. And he must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no compassion.»
Most of us are umpires – we jump at the opportunity to call strikes on someone else. It’s so easy to apply God’s standard to others – but we dodge its application on ourselves. Isn’t it wonderful when you can find somebody who is worse than you? You can vent upon them the spleen, the wrath, that you feel about yourself. That is exactly what David did.
He had been a shepherd. He had had a little ewe lamb. He knew what it was all about. Then here was this totally callous person, this rich man with flocks and herds, who grabbed this poor little ewe lamb, all the poor fellow had, and took it for a wayfarer, not even for his mother-in-law or some important visitor.
He is pronouncing judgment on himself, and he doesn’t even realize it. He’s strict about applying the law in THIS case!
And then, once he has him where he wanted him, Nathan comes in with the punchline:
«You are the man!
Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘It is I who anointed you king over Israel and it is I who delivered you from the hand of Saul. I also gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your care,
Remember that harem I mentioned?
and I gave you the house of Israel and Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added to you many more things like these! Why have you despised the word of the Lord by doing evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the sons of Ammon.
Notice, no mention is even made of Bathsheba – this is ALL on David! You used treachery; You used deceit; and You used pagan enemies. Collatoral damage – all the men that Uriah was leading at the time… it wasn’t just one man on his conscience!
And yet Nathan says «you sinned against God». Why God? Because David failed to accept and believe God’s promises:
if that had been too little, I would have added to you many more things like these!
What does repentence look like? While it’s difficult to describe, it’s easy to recognise. You know it when you see it! And there is no mistaking it here with David:
I have sinned against the Lord!
That’s a short response. No excuses. No qualifications. Guilty as charged. David didn’t say «well, we all mess up once in a while» or «well, I didn’t expect it to go that badly?» or «but I had legal permits for hunting a lion, I just didn’t realice it was Cecil… well, except that we tried to destroy the GPS tags»…
No, he takes full responsibility for everything, including the consequences. Accepting responsibility is liberating. Yes, it’s hard to admit you were wrong. But it demonstrates strength, courage, and a commitment to personal excellence. It’s respectful. By doing so, you demonstrate that you care about yourself and others.
And David was forgiven! He should have died for this, as he says in his own condemnation of the rich man! But even though he will not die for his deeds, he still doesn’t get to escape the consecuences. Unfortunately, many times, even though we have admitted our mistakes, we still have to live with the consequences. Most of us think that God’s forgiveness is escaping the consequences, but that’s not usually the case. Even when we’ve admitted we’re wrong, there are often still consequences that we are going to have to live with.
And so we have Psalm 51:
- Have mercy upon me, O God, according to your lovingkindness: according to the multitude of Your tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
- Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
- For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
- Against Three, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight: so You are justified when You speak, and are clear when You judge.
- Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part You make me to know wisdom.
- Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
- May be to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which You have broken may rejoice.
- Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
- Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
- Cast me not away from Thy presnece; and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.
- Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free Spirit.
This is why David is a man after God’s own heart! Because he acknowledges, heartfully, when he has screwed up and offers true repentence!